Sawadee Ka everyone!
We thought it is about time to update you on what we got up to during our time in Thailand (another huge blog because we got behind but hopefully we will be updating regularly again).
We left Indonesia feeling extremely excited to explore Thailand, yet we still did not want to leave because of the amazing time we had there. Anyway, we landed in Phuket after having a 24hour stop over in Singapore's airport, which was probably the most luxurious place we have stayed so far! We managed to use a friend from home's 'Priority Pass', which allowed us access to the airports first-class lounges! It was brilliant, with unlimited free food and drinks (a buffet which we destroyed) and free use of the showers, WiFi, cinema and sofas the size of beds. We used this lounge to our advantage and ate an enormous amount of food, made ourselves feel very sick and then took us much food as we could fit in our bags to take with us. We was sad to have to leave!
Hello Phuket-we expected to land here and get a taxi to Patong and find our hostel quickly so we could get some sleep after such a long travel. As per, this was not the case and our driver dropped us off at a completely different hotel at 1AM telling us it was just around the corner and then sped off. Luckily, the owners of the hotel we were dropped at spotted us, could see we were exhausted and offered us one of their rooms at the price of the hostel we had originally booked! This meant hot water, free bottled water, a fridge, cable TV and air-con! We were starting to get used to this whole luxury thing.
Unfortunately, the room was the best part of Patong. Imagine Benidorm then throw in some ladyboys, strippers, Thai brides, prostitutes and who knows what else. The beach in Patong was overcrowded so we spent one day there and another day shopping and hiding in our air conditioned room. Our first evening we found a local food market and experienced our first taste of Thai Cuisine - Pad Tai (really really yummy noodles!) and Yellow Curry. We then went to a bar down the infamous Bangla road where there were "Girls" dancing outside. We decided to just people watch and thought we spotted the ladyboys straight away - the huge fat one with awful make up shouting "why dont you love me, mmmmmm" at anyone who didnt give her money. The dancing from the other girls was pretty unenthusiastic, just a bit of foot shuffling - we could do better! So we felt sorry for them thinking that they were probably really bored and didnt want to be there, plus some of them looked very young. However, little did we know that they were all ladyboys (Worryingly convincing!!!)
After 3 days we had enough of the wierd and wacky Patong and headed to Phuket town instead. We hopped on a bus and expected to arrive at the nice Thai market town we had read about. Wrong. Phuket Town was dead, there was absolutely nothing there and felt more like we were in Soviet Russia than Thailand! The only highlight was a wicked Thai Green curry pizza we had for dinner and a cool night market.
So off we went again, we got up bright and early on a mission to get to the paradise beaches of Krabi. First a trek to Bus Terminal 1 (made bareable only by the sunless cool of 6am), then a bus to Terminal 2, a four hour bus to Krabi, a Pick up truck "taxi" to Ao Nang and a Longtail boat to Railay beach. Finally! Paradise again! And it was only midday. Only the hottest part of the day and the perfect time to walk around for two hours trying to find somewhere cheap to stay in an area full of expensive resorts. We found a resort offering cheap bamboo huts, grabbed one and hit the beach. Railey consisted of laying on a beach all day, swimming in caves and rock climbing to find a hidden lagoon. The highlight was waking up at half 5 in the morning, walking to a deserted beach and swimming all morning in the cool sun. However, we only stayed two nights because it was a bit over priced and headed for Koh Samui (a journey of 2 boats and three buses). We met a german guy who told us that it was the full moon party the next day and our whole bus was headed there, so we quickly re-routed our tickets and headed for Koh Phangan.
Koh Phangan was awesome and not just because of the full moon party. We found a great little place to crash, a small complex of large bungalows with hammocks and plenty of space and spotless! The owners were an old married couple who were very relaxed and treated us like family and pretty much lounged around all day with us. It had a nice pool too which was 10 metres from the beach so we was again living in paradise. Here we met a group of 19 year olds from Reading. It was cool meeting some people our own age to party with at the full moon. They were, however, typical 'gap-yah' private school toffs (as are most 19 year olds we meet later in Thailand!) We drunk a few bottles of rum with them before cramming into a tuk-tuk (11 of us all together in a 6 seat vehicle) and hit the full-moon party! This was bad craziness here and for most of the night all we did was dance, drink, dance more and rest at the end up mushy mountain. The party doesnt start til around 11 or 12 and goes on well into the early hours so we felt sorry for two of the guys who had to get a bus just as most people were coming home (we dont think they even went to bed) so were in for a rough ride. Unfortuantely all we had to do that day was sleep in a hammock and tuck into fried rice!
We lazed around for one more day before making the journey up to Bangkok. First we had to get a ferry back to the mainland then an overnight bus up to Bangkok. We arrived at around 4am and headed for Kao San road. A lot of guesthouse receptions werent open yet so there was only one solution - grab a plate of Pad Thai. Breakfast for 50p! We found a really cheap room which was more of a box but it was clean and convinient. Bangkok was extremely sweaty so we soon began to appreciate their clean, powerful showers and actually began to complain when they were warm!!
It was a nice change to be in a city rather than by the beach and the street food in Bangkok was amazing!!! Beetles, barbequed Octopus, roast duck soup, grilled pork fat, cabbage and noodle omlette to name a few!! The traffic in Bangkok was crazy, we learnt that in Thailand there are few pedestrian crossing so you have to take the roads a lane at a time and most of the time let the cars drive around you. Often even if there are traffic lights there will still be cars coming towards you on the green man so if in doubt just run!!
Whilst in Bangkok we explored the flower and fresh fruit markets (which sold the best oranges we have ever eaten!) China town, the temple of the reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha was huge! and the temple was beautiful, a lot more stunning than any of the temples of India. We also explored the city's shopping centres, which there are dozens of, if only just for the aircon (7Eleven also saw a lot of us in Bangkok).
We also made a trip to the floating market which was about 100km out of town. The Journey to the market was an adventure in itself. We hopped on a train which was 6baht, about 5p and ended up in a huge bustling food market. Here, it sold anything you could possibly imagine to eat. We found like turtles, frogs, eels, birds and every part of any other animal on sale to eat. It was full of brilliant and revolting smells but an experience in itself! After a very short ferry ride we had another train which goes through a very tight market, you can search it on youtube, the train moves through the market as people move their stalls out of the way for the train! It was an amazing sight. The floating market was delicious, we tried many foods and saw loads of tiny boats selling food, clothes and just about anything else. It was a tiring day, so we grabbed a bag of fanta and got a bus home where we slept well. Bangkok's nightlife is probably the best we have ever had. We met another group of private school kids and drank them under the table, so they staggered home while we continued to search for the party! We met a group of dutch or swiss or something and continued to party well into the night and somehow ended up with an english couple in a lively club playing some awesome music from what we can remember. It turned out the English girl was from Crayford!! It was so weird meeting someone from near home who even drank in the same places in Dartford as we do! This was a long night and we crawled in to bed at 6 only to be awake at 11 to have to move on (i can describe the pain we felt waking up dehydrated in a tiny sweatbox room with no water)! Bangkok was an amazing city with the best food and nightlife we have ever experienced, we will defintiely return to this sinful city again soon.
Ayutthaya was a sleepy little town and the ancient capital of Thailand and we only had one full day here. We rented bikes and cycled round all day getting a nice sweat going. We visted many ancient temples and took it nice an easy before tucking into some delicious street food. The next day we woke early to catch the 10 hour bus to Chang Mai, a northen city that was old, ancient, chilled out and charming. The bus was fantastic! We were sat right at the front on the top with ample leg room, aircon and lots of food.
Chang Mai was by far the highlight of Thailand, if not the entire trip, for one reason. Elephants! We spent a whole day caring for our elephant, who we named Nelly. First we went to the local market to buy fruits for them (plus some fruit and some chicken and rice for ourselves!) and made the hour drive into the mountains and the elephant's home. We then had to change into our very attractive Mahout clothing and were taught basic Mahout commands in how to control the elephant. This consisted of shouting some random words and rubbing either the front of their head or their ears with a stick. Hayley was first up, climbing onto the elephant was more difficult than they made it look (sorry Nelly). Unsurprisingly the elephant took no notice of Hayley's commands and in fact started turning the wrong way, nearly colliding with another elephant. Max was much better. Leapfrogging over Nelly's head and shouting '"Bai Bai!" (The only command we remembered) and actually managed to get Nelly to move. To compensate for our appaulling Mahout skills we fed her lots of bananas and sugarcanes! Max fed one from his own mouth, but hadnt brushed his teeth and Nelly was having none of his smelly breath!!!
We then tucked into our own delicous lunch of curry and fruit before it was time to get stuck in clearing out the elephant poo and washing the elephants. However, elephants like to eat everything ( and eat 20 tonnes a day!!) and were more interested in trying to eat the scrubbers than being washed. Elephants are gentle but scarily huge animals and we didnt want to argue too much with them when their huge trunks are trying to grab stuff from your hand. There was also a baby elephant there who was extremely cute and kept trying to climb into the massive bucket of drinking water. He was also impatient to wait for his bananas to be peeled before eating them and attacked Hayley with his slobbery banana-ery trunk!
We then got the chance to ride the elephants on our own (with a guide their for help!) so we rode off into the jungle... or just down the road before the elephants stopped for a light lunch. Nelly also decided to spray thick muddy water over herself, or more over us. We eventually came to a river and a little pool where the real fun began. We got off the elephants and washed them in the river, with the Mahouts having just as much fun puring water over us as we had pouring water over the elephants! Once again though they were more interested in eating everything and when we stopped for a quick photo our elephant dove his trunk into Max's pocket to seek out the food inside!! It was an incrdible experience and we spent ages swimming and playing with the elephants until we jumped back on them and went to a mud bath. This was a huge body of water which underneath was thick mud whch the elephants use to cover them selves to gain protection from the sun and mozzes. It was basically a huge mud fight! It was the best art of the day with everyone getting stuck in and throwing mud around (eventually, mud was confused with elephant poo so we all jumped out). It was also amazing to watch the elephants playing amongst themselves having a great time just alongside us. An unforgettable experience.
Back at Chang Mai we realised how brilliant Thailand had been. We are so lucky to be travelling and everyday it still feels exciting as we are constantly on the move. Thailand was a brilliant country, from the sleaze of Phuket to the amazing beaches in the south, to the incredible food and craziness of bangkok, all the way up to the magical north, home to Asian giants, the elephants. We were excited to leave for Cambodia but will not forget a second of Thailand. It has offered us probably the best street food of all, amazing nights out and incredible memories.
Thailand, you've been awesome!